Category Archives: Local News


Tioga Pass Opening

Tioga Road opening Today

Tioga Road in Yosemite National Park to Open on Monday, May 4
Road Construction Occurring on Portions of Tioga Road

The Tioga Road in Yosemite National Park will open for the season on Monday, May 4, 2015, at 8:00 a.m. for all vehicular traffic.  Due to a light snowpack this past winter, the Tioga Road was cleared of snow early into the season.  The Tioga Road, bounded on both sides by State Highway 120, is the popular east-west crossing of the Sierra Nevada.
Visitors are urged to drive with caution while on the Tioga Road, as there will be rehabilitation work occurring on portions of the roadway.  Visitors will experience portions of the road that are unpaved and should be aware that delays are in place.  For more information about the construction work and traffic delays on the Tioga Road, please visit:

photo by Gary Young.

Snow and icy conditions may still exist on hiking trails at the higher elevations.  Visitors are urged to be prepared for snowy conditions and possible treacherous stream crossings while hiking the backcountry in the early season.  Vault toilets are available in several locations along the road.  Limited visitor services will be available over the next several weeks.  Additionally, late spring storms may change the status of the road and cause temporary closures.  For updated, 24-hour road conditions, please call 209-372-0200.
All campgrounds along the Tioga Road are closed.  All commercial services, including the gas station, store, and village grill, are also closed.  There are no anticipated opening dates for any of these facilities at this time.

tioga pass, eastern sierra news, mono county news, lee vining, yosemite news

Ranch water will flow

LADWP will not cut irrigation water

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has rescinded a proposed irrigation water cut off to Owens Valley lessees. Just prior to Tusday’s Inyo supervisors water workshop word came down of the LADWP’s proposal to cut water to local ranchers May 1st due to the severity of this year’s record drought. Now May 1st has arrived and LADWP spokesperson Amanda Parsons is confirming that the water will continue to flow to local ranchers. Parsons credits the “Collaboration with local partners” for allowing the LADWP flexibility with how they distribute water for invalley uses. The LADWP is under legal obligation to provide water for various enhancement and mitigation projects, including but not limited to the Owens Lake and Lower Owens River Project.

Monday the Inyo County/Los Angeles Department of Water and Power Technical Group will meet at 8:30 a.m. in the DWP Multi-Purpose Room at 300 Mandich Street, Bishop. The meeting will include a discussion of the 2015-2016 Annual Owens Valley Operations Plan, and a discussion of water distribution for irrigation and other environmental projects in the Owens Valley. The public will be offered the opportunity to comment on each agenda item prior to any action. There will also be a public comment period to open the Monday meeting.



The Owens Valley Committee Meets

Letter from the OVC:
The Owens Valley Committee met Wednesday to discuss short-term solutions for getting water to the valley’s ranchers. The group called this emergency meeting in reaction to Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s letter of April 27, which notified valley ranchers they’d be cut off from all irrigation water starting May 1.
OVC has been aware for quite some time that ranchers are being squeezed by LADWP. In its December 2014 newsletter, OVC wrote,
LADWP has long seen ranch water as a waste. Over the last several years, they have attempted to coerce ranchers and farmer to reduce water use by financial incentives, and have successfully petitioned the County to reduce irrigation duty to 3 acre feet by the use of sprinklers on some parcels. ‘Water conservation’ has become a euphemism for exporting more water to Los Angeles.’ ‘Saving’ ranch water isn’t a good thing in the Owens Valley. When a rancher irrigates with ditches, riparian habitat is formed, not only along the ditch, but through ‘tail water,’ or water at the end of the ditch that extends beyond the official irrigated parcel. [‘Saving’ water] eliminates tail water and destroys riparian and meadow habitat that has been irrigated for decades, as well as killing the tree and shrub hedgerows between fields.
Pressuring ranchers about water use is nothing new for LADWP. Deciding to cut off irrigation water entirely, however, is one of LADWP’s most obvious, glaring violations of the Long Term Water Agreement to date. Though LADWP rescinded this action on April 29, OVC is seriously concerned that LADWP has set an alarming precedent for future moves against Owens Valley agriculture. Ranchers and farmers are important contributors to Owens Valley’s economy, as well as stewards of the land. Agriculture is the second largest economic driver in Inyo County. $19.8 million in economic contribution, or 77% of total agricultural production, is dependent on irrigation. Ranchers’ entire livelihoods are at risk if they do not receive the water promised by the Long Term Water Agreement. Bankruptcy of ranch owners means long term “water savings” for LADWP because there is no guarantee that the DWP will spread water as effectively as Owens Valley ranchers doing their day to day jobs.
Confusing and inconsistent numbers regarding water storage and supply were circulated at the “Talking Water Workshop” on April 28th in the Inyo County Board of Supervisors chambers. The OVC would like to know the exact figures regarding water amounts LADWP has in storage at Crowley, Pleasant Valley, and Tinnemaha Reservoirs. DWP is planning to send about 42,000 acre feet to Los Angeles this year. The reservoirs upstream of the Owens Valley could supply some of that water to ranchers instead.
Some options the Owens Valley Committee discussed Wednesday were:
1. Lowering the minimum flow in the Lower Owens River Project (LORP) from 40 to as low as 30 cubic feet per second (cfs) for the remainder of the run-off year. This water would be reallocated to in-valley use.
2. Reductions in flows to the Owens Lake delta during the irrigation season. This water would be reallocated for in-valley use.

OVC will only consider options that guarantee re-allocated water remains in the Owens Valley.  The Owens Valley has been in an artificial drought since the early 1900s when the City of Los Angeles began exporting water south. This drought intensified in 1972 when LADWP began heavily pumping groundwater and sending it down a second barrel of the aqueduct. Predictably, increased water export spurred increased growth—including water-guzzling lawns, ponds, golf courses, swimming pools, etc.—in the naturally arid Los Angeles basin and surrounding area, and created more of a thirst for Owens Valley water. Like many western cities, Los Angeles has created a problem for itself by actively encouraging a “need” for more and more water.
The Owens Valley Committee appreciates any actions taken to cut back on water usage in Los Angeles—but the City needs to do more. In deciding to issue a letter to Owens Valley ranchers cutting off their access to irrigation water on May 1, LADWP took unilateral and unquestionably illegal action in direct violation of the Long Term Water Agreement and 1991 EIR. This is not a legitimate option. The Owens Valley has been living in an artificial LA-imposed drought for more than a century. The burden of sacrifice during this state-wide drought should not fall on the shoulders of Owens Valley’s ranchers, thereby causing more damage to the valley’s already severely depleted ecosystem. The burden of sacrifice should fall on the shoulders of the City of Los Angeles.

cover photo by Gary Young.

ladwp, inyo county, drought 2015, owens valley committee, eastern sierra news
mt whit 3

Oak Creek Field trip

INF hosting Oak Creek Field Trip

Inyo National Forest Hosting Oak Creek Field Trip and Workshop
The Inyo National Forest is hosting a field trip and workshop regarding restoration and stabilization needs on the South and North Forks of Oak Creek on Friday, May 15th, starting at 9:30 am.
Oak Creek is west of the Fort Independence Indian Reservation and the Old Mount Whitney Fish Hatchery. This unique habitat contains stands of black oak and interior live oak, rare on the east side of the Sierra Nevada range.
A large debris flow occurred in both the South Fork and North Fork of Oak Creek in July 2008 following the 2007 Inyo Complex wildfire. The Forest is preparing a restoration plan with options later this summer and would like to understand potential concerns and outline restoration options with interested parties and stakeholders.
Please meet at the Ft. Independence Travel Center by 9:30 am.  Participants will carpool up to several stops on both the South Fork and North Fork Oak Creek and discuss the effects of the debris flow and current condition. At 1:00 pm, we’ll re-convene at the Ft. Independence Tribal conference room directly south of the Travel Center to discuss restoration needs, options, and next steps. The meeting will end by 3:00 pm.
Please bring sturdy shoes, hat, sunglasses, water, snacks/lunch, etc. if you’re attending the field trip.
Please RSVP to Todd Ellsworth by May 12 for carpool planning. E-mail Todd at or call (760) 937-2033.

cover photo, Mt Whitney Fish Hatchery, by Gary Young

inyo national forest, oak creek, eastern sierra news, mt whitney fish hatchery

Speak Up!

Bishop Unified School District wants to hear from you

Each year the school district is required to develop a Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP).   The LCAP is a plan that aligns the District’s educational goals with financial resources.  The district welcome your input and ask that you take a few moments to complete the survey to provide the Governing Board with your priorities for educating children in Bishop Unified School District. Please go to the link provided to access the survey. Please submit your survey by May 8th, 2015 “ let your voice be heard”.

left to right, BUSD board members Josh Nicholson, Taylor Ludwick, Dr. Eric Richman, Kathy Zack, Trina Orrill. Superintendent Barry Simpson, secretary Kristin Carr, Midge Milici.

Photo by Arnie Palu, taken at the special board meeting held on Tuesday, April 28th.  Board members and staff outnumbered attendees 8 to 3.

bishop unified school district, bishop news, barry simpson
tioga rocks

120 Closing Thursday

Caltrans closing 120 Thursday for Maintenance

SR 120 West – Tioga Pass Road to close for Maintenance
on Thursday, April 30th, 2015.   The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) would like to inform the traveling public that SR 120 West (Tioga Pass) from the junction of US Hwy 395 to the Yosemite Park gate will be closed on Thursday, April 30th, 2015.

For the safety of Caltrans crews and the public, the one day closure is required to allow crews to address rock falling onto the roadway and to perform routine maintenance as a result of last weekend’s storm.  The closure will begin at 7:30 am and end at 3:30 pm.

For the latest in highway information please visit Caltrans QuickMap site at or call our Road Condition Hotline at 1-800-427-ROAD (7623).

caltrans, tioga pass road, eastern sierra news, mono county news

LADWP shutting off irrigation May 1

LA cutting off water to lessees Friday

The Inyo Board of supervisor invited everyone to the table to talk water.  A water workshop was scheduled as part to their regular meeting Tuesday.  Monday night Inyo supervisors were made aware of notice passed along to local LADWP lessees that irrigation would halt Friday, May 1st.  The Los Angeles Department of water and power giving lessees less than a weeks notice of their directive.  Inyo County Administrative Officer Kevin Carunchio responds.

“ Most of the LADWP lessees in the area, received communication that all irrigation water, weather supplied by surface water like creeks, canals, or pumped from the ground, will be shut off May 1st. Obviously that spells nothing but disaster, economic, agriculture and environmental disaster. For the lessees and for the wildlife that lives on those leases, and for the ascetics of the Owenes Valley.”

The Inyo County CAO and the board of supervisors see the move by the LADWP as a clear violation of the long term water agreement.

“Yesterday the board met and authorized correspondence and appropriate legal action. The board did move forward with the workshop, and had a spirited, constructive, and heart felt conversation about how to use the water the dwp has said it will leave in the valley.” Said Caruchio.

Inyo Supervisor Rick Pucci opened yesterdays workshop by questioning the LADWP’s willingness to work cooperatively in light of their bold step to cut irrigation waters.  Carunchio sees the move as an unfair blow to Owens Valley agriculture.  “Everyone there yesterday recognizes the need for reductions of water use, that’s just a reality in this type of drought year, but to heap it all on agriculture does not seem wise or fair. When you look at it, some of the ag leases are the biggest win,win situations out there in terms of environmental enhancement, wildlife habitat, dust control and economic influx”

Citing pending litigation, LADWP officials did not comment directly on the topic at Tuesdays workshop.

cover photo by Gary Young.

inyo county news, drought 2015, kevin carunchio, rick pucci, ladwp
Ferruginous Hawk 1

Raptors Presentation

A Second Showing: Raptors of the Eastern Sierra

When: Wednesday, May 6, 7:00pm (doors open at 6:30pm)
Where: USFS/BLM, Bishop

The first presentation of Raptors of the Eastern Sierra was such a hit that we were able to schedule another program to include those of you that missed the first one! This will be a repeat of the same presentation that was given in February of 2015.

There are 17 different raptors that are typically found in the eastern sierra. Ron Oriti will cover the basics of each species – their natural history and the differences between males, females, and immatures, but the highlight of the presentation will be the wonderful photos (if anything, come for the photos!). You will love seeing these raptors up close.

Ron Oriti is a retired Planetarium Director and astronomy teacher. He was a research assistant in meteoritics at UCLA, and has co-authored a textbook on astronomy for beginning colleges students. His love of nature, and the outdoors brought him to the eastern sierra. With the aid of the digital camera, he has specialized in photographing local landscapes,wild​flowers, dragonflies, butterflies, lizards, raptors, and other birds.

We hope to see you then and spread the word! For more information see our website: or call: 760.920.8541

Photos by Ron Oriti

American Kestrel
American Kestrel
bald eagle
bald eagle
eastern sierra news, raptors of the eastern sierra, ron oriti

Council Honors Kellie Hallenbeck

Bishop City Council Honors Hallenbeck

Monday evening the Bishop City Council made a presentation to outgoing Park and Recreation commissioner Kellie Hallenbeck.  The council thanked Hallenbeck for her years of service on the commission noting her specific contribution to improvements at the city park and expansion of services.


Hallenbeck pinned a letter to city of Bishop staff.

I am delighted to have been part of the Parks and Recreation Commission and considered it an honor and privilege to have been chairperson the last two years. My favorite accomplishment was being a part of the Tree Committee.  Together we agreed on new street trees for sidewalk improvement projects and with fellow Master Gardener, Alison Collin, we were able to choose every tree for the Warren Street Project.  Best of all having an approved Arboretum in the city park is helping Bishop to be placed on the map of ‘Tree City USA!’   My hometown of Sacramento is considered the ‘City of Trees’  for California so helping the high dessert become a tree city is truly magical for me. I also enjoyed helping fund the tile mural wall at the Inyo County Library and the Bishop Dog Park through yard sale profits and many many meetings.  I am satisfied with the additions of the community garden, the outdoor gym, new fields and improvements throughout the park.  I’m excited to know a shade structure will be in place for the playground and the walking path is scheduled to circle the park and after years of trying I hope to visit one day to see a community building filled with liveliness. I joined the commission because the city lacked activities for kids but now the children of Bishop are certainly blessed with programs to meet all of their needs thanks to the City of Bishop’s Parks and Recreation Department’s awesomeness and volunteer efforts!  Thank you for all you do!May your children and their children forever be and feel safe at Bishop City Park.”

Hellenbeck and her husband Tom, former Caltrans district 9 director, are relocating to Sacramento.

Cover Photo, Dan McElroy, Parks & Recreation Supervisor and Kellie Hallenbeck.

city of bishop, bishop news, kellie hallenbeck, warren street

Bishop Parks and Rec Vacancy

City of Bishop Parks and Rec Vacancy

Notice is hereby given that the City Council of the City of Bishop announces an unscheduled vacancy on the Parks and Recreation Commission.  This appointment will be in effect until the end of the term on October 28, 2015.  All interested persons interested in serving on this City Commission may contact Bishop City Hall, 377 West Line Street, Bishop, (760) 873-5863.  Applications and descriptions of duties and responsibilities of the commission are available at City Hall and on the City’s website at   Applications will be accepted until the close of business at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 6, 2015.

city of bishop, bishop news, eastern sierra news

Inyo Supervisors Talking Water

Inyo Supervisors hosting water workshop

The Inyo Board of Supervisors are holding a workshop during Tuesday’s meeting titled “Talking Water Workshop” to discuss water availability. In light of the severity of present drought conditions and the dire shortfall in water for in-valley uses proposed in LADWP’s Proposed Annual Operations Plan, the Board desires input from all segments of the community concerning Owens Valley water availability and use. The Board is inviting representatives of the Department of Water and Power, the Tribal Councils, signatories to the 1997 MOU concerning the Inyo/Los Angeles Long-Term Water Agreement, local water districts, LADWP lessees, State and federal agencies, parties participating in the Owens Lake Master Project Advisory Committee, and the public to join the Board in their discussions.

The workshop is scheduled for Tuesday, April 28th at 1:30 p.m., in the Board of Supervisors Room, at the County Administrative Center in Independence.

The Board encourages those who are interested in learning about and providing information concerning the impacts and mitigation of reduced water availability in Inyo County to attend the workshop and share with the Board your comments and ideas.


inyo board of supervisors, drought 2015, eastern sierra news, ladwp